[ ahr-bi-treyt ]
/ ˈɑr bɪˌtreɪt /
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See synonyms for: arbitrate / arbitrated on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), ar·bi·trat·ed, ar·bi·trat·ing.

to decide as arbitrator or arbiter; determine.
to submit to arbitration; settle by arbitration: to arbitrate a dispute.

verb (used without object), ar·bi·trat·ed, ar·bi·trat·ing.

to act as arbitrator or arbiter; decide between opposing or contending parties or sides.
to submit a matter to arbitration.



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Origin of arbitrate

1580–90; <Latin arbitrātus decided, judged (past participle of arbitrārī), equivalent to arbit(e)rarbiter + -ātus-ate1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does arbitrate mean?

To arbitrate is to act as an arbitrator—an independent, impartial third party that works to settle a dispute between two opposing sides, often by making a decision that they both agree to.

This process is called arbitration. Arbitrate can also mean to engage in arbitration, as in If we can’t come to an agreement, we may need to arbitrate.

For a process to be considered arbitration, it must involve an arbitrator, which can be a single person or a team of people.

The terms arbitrate and arbitration are especially used in the context of negotiations between businesses and labor unions. When the two sides can’t agree and negotiations are unproductive, they may agree or be ordered to arbitrate.

An arbitration process in which the arbitrator’s decision must be accepted by both parties is sometimes called binding arbitration—meaning the arbitrator’s decision is final and legally binding.

The word arbitrate can also be used in a more general way meaning “to determine or settle a dispute,” similar to the word mediate. However, arbitrate often implies that the process is a formal one.

Example: After weeks of negotiations stalled and resulted in an impasse, the two sides agreed to enter arbitration.

Where does arbitrate come from?

The first records of the word arbitrate come from the late 1500s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb arbitrāri, meaning “to give judgment.”

Arbitrate and arbitration are typically used in a more specific way than mediate and mediation. Mediation generally refers to a process in which an impartial third party (called a mediator) helps parties to settle a dispute or create agreement by acting as an intermediary. This can happen in the workplace or simply among friends, for example.

In contrast, arbitration typically refers to a more formal form of mediation—often one that happens in a legal context. In this way, an arbitrator is a kind of mediator and arbitrating is a form of mediating.

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How is arbitrate used in real life?

Arbitrate is most commonly used in the context of labor disputes.

Try using arbitrate!

True or False? 

The word arbitrate commonly means to settle a dispute by formally acting as an impartial third party.

British Dictionary definitions for arbitrate

/ (ˈɑːbɪˌtreɪt) /


to settle or decide (a dispute); achieve a settlement between parties
to submit to or settle by arbitration
arbitrable, adjectivearbitrator, noun
C16: from Latin arbitrāri to give judgment; see arbiter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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